How to plant amaryllis?

*This blog post contains affiliate links, to make it easier for you to order supplies for growing amaryllis outside. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you).

Have you ever wondered what to do with your amaryllis once the flowers have faded? Instead of throwing it out, you can plant it outdoors, where it will bloom year to year, even if you live in the Desert Southwest.

Around the holiday season, amaryllis bulbs can be purchased in most grocery stores, nurseries, or online.

I have been enjoying the beautiful blooms of my amaryllis this holiday season and am grateful for the vibrant splash of color on my kitchen windowsill. Soon, the flowers will fade, and I will get it ready to transplant outside.

Here is how to do it:

1. Cut off the faded flower, but keep the stem and leaves, which will continue to produce food for the amaryllis bulb. Don’t worry if the stem oozes sap after cutting, this is normal. Once the stem and leaves turn yellow and die, cut them off.

2. Select an area out in the garden for your amaryllis. They will require an area that gets filtered shade or a few hours of morning sun. It should have fertile garden soil, which can be provided by amending with potting soil. If you have a flower bed or vegetable garden, you can plant the amaryllis in there, OR you can plant it in a container – I love this blue one.

3. Once the danger of freezing temperatures has passed, it’s time to plant. At the bottom of the planting hole, add some bulb fertilizer, following package directions. In desert climates, it’s important to bury the bulb to the top, so that only a 1/2 inch remains above the soil. New leaves will soon emerge that will add a pretty element to the garden.

4. Whenever leafy growth is present, water when the top inch of soil is dry and fertilize monthly using an all-purpose liquid fertilizer at 1/2 the recommended strength.

5. Amaryllis typically bloom in spring when grown outdoors. After the blooms fade, remove them and allow the leaves to remain until they turn yellow and die. At this point, add a layer of mulch, leaving only a 1/2 inch peeking above the soil. Decrease the watering so that soil remains just slightly moist.

So, in a nutshell, water and fertilize when they are blooming, or leaves are growing, cut off leaves when they are dead – stop fertilizing and decrease watering.

It’s easy to see why amaryllis are a favorite flower when grown indoors and even more so if you plant them outdoors for those of us who live in the Desert Southwest.

Have you ever grown an amaryllis outside?

*Gardeners Supply provided with this amaryllis free of charge for my review.

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Noelle Johnson, aka, ‘AZ Plant Lady’ is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, “Gardening in the desert isn’t hard, but it is different.”

Amaryllis Planting Outdoors – Learn How To Grow Amaryllis In The Garden

Amaryllis is as popular a holiday gift plant as poinsettia and Christmas cactus. Once the attractive blooms fade, though, we’re left wondering what to do next. Of course, many people choose to continue growing the plant indoors, but it may come as a pleasant surprise to know that in warmer climes, up to USDA Zone 7b, planting amaryllis outside in the garden is an option too. Read on to learn more about growing amaryllis in gardens.

Amaryllis Planting Outdoors

Amaryllis bulbs are easy enough to grow indoors, and just as easy to grow in the garden provided you live in a suitable region. They make great specimens outdoors. They perform well in beds, borders or containers outside. You can also scatter them throughout the landscape in naturalized areas. These plants look exceptionally attractive when planted in groups. Best of all, amaryllis bulbs are deemed resistant to both deer and many rodents.

Whether you are planning on planting the bulbs themselves or transplanting forced plants, it’s important to know when the appropriate time for doing so is. Typically, new bulbs are planted with other spring bloomers – in fall. Those gifted to you (or purchased plants) can go outside in spring, after the threat of frost has passed. Wait until the plants have finished blooming too. Prior to moving these plants outside, however, you’ll want to gradually acclimate them to their new environment.

How to Grow Amaryllis in the Garden

Once amaryllis plants are ready to be planted, you’ll have to decide where to put them. First, consider light, since those being acclimated will need to slowly be introduced to more light anyway. Amaryllis can tolerate both sun and shade fairly well, but typically fares better somewhere in between – like partial shade. Too much sunlight can lead to leaf burn, while flowering may be limited in too much shade.

Next, consider the soil in the area you want to grow amaryllis. These bulbs prefer well-draining soil. You can improve drainage by creating raised beds or simply mix in some organic matter, like peat or compost. Amended soil will also provide amaryllis with nutrients for healthy growth.

Planting amaryllis outdoors is much the same as in containers, neck deep, keeping the top 1/3 of the bulb sticking up above soil level. Space plants 12-15 inches apart. Water well following planting until established.

Amaryllis Garden Care

Amaryllis appreciate at least one feeding upon emergence in early spring. Although not necessary, additional fertilizer can be applied a couple more times throughout the growing season as needed using a balanced fertilizer at the recommended rates.

Amaryllis also needs to be kept moist throughout the growing season, though established plants are fairly tolerant of drought.

Once planted outside, forced amaryllis bulbs will eventually revert back to their natural spring blooming cycle. Once flowers have faded, remove the stalks. You can expect foliage to remain throughout much of summer before succumbing to fall frosts. Adding about a 2-inch layer of mulch around your plants will not only help conserve moisture and reduce weed growth, but will offer them added protection once cooler temps arrive.

Given adequate amaryllis garden care, you can expect to see beautiful blooms each year. They don’t require much and are fairly tolerant of neglect once established. Should plants become overcrowded, divide the clumps and separate as needed. This can also help with reduced blooming, as can a bloom boosting fertilizer or bone meal.

Growing amaryllis in the garden is a great way to enjoy these plants year after year.

By Nikki Keltner, Program Coordinator, University of Illinois Extension

One of my all-time favorite plants is the amaryllis. This plant is a very popular holiday plant, sold in many stores and often given as gifts. If you received an amaryllis as a gift I hope you have enjoyed its beautiful bell shaped blooms. There are many colors of amaryllis, red, white, pink, salmon, apricot, burgundy and variegated. One of the most popular varieties is “Apple Blossom” which is pink and white.

Typically sold as a bulb, amaryllis bulbs are often in a kit with soil and a pot. Once potted, the bulb starts shooting its flower stalk. My family enjoys watching the flower stalk grow day by day increasing in height until it reaches about 12 to 18 inches. Then the blooms start to unfold. It is like the anticipation of a gift, how many blooms will be on the stalk? They can have anywhere from 2 to 6 blooms on a stalk but typically have 4. As the beautiful bell shaped flowers unfold another flower stalk may appear and start to grow. While the plant is in bloom, set it in a cooler location in your house out of direct sunlight to ensure long lasting blooms.

The flower stalks are born before the leaves appear earning the amaryllis the nickname “naked lady.” Once the blooms fade, the spent flower stalks can be cut down to the base, then the strap like leaves will start to appear. Allow the leaves to remain on the plant as they will create and store food in the bulb for next year. Next year? Yes, you can keep this plant and it will re-bloom for you. Place it in a bright, indoor location during the remainder of the winter months. Water it thoroughly but let it dry out between waterings. Once the danger of frost has passed, take your amaryllis outdoors where it can receive filtered sunlight like the north side of the house or under a large shade tree. Once it has adapted to being outside you can move it to where it receives more sun. You can leave it in a pot or plant it in a garden. I like to plant my amaryllis in a flowerbed that receives sun in the morning and shade from a little leaf linden tree in the afternoon. Outside the plants will thrive, taking in the nourishing rain and the sun. Fertilize the plant every two weeks with a water soluble fertilizer designed for blooming plants (be sure to follow label directions).

Before the first frost, bring the amaryllis indoors. Store the plant in a cool, dark place like a basement and stop watering them. They can be stored in their pot or bare root. Since my amaryllis are directly planted in the ground during the summer and dug up in the fall, I typically store them bare root. Remove the leaves as they yellow. The bulb needs to go through this period of rest for about eight to twelve weeks in order to re-bloom. Inspect the bulbs periodically during this rest period, if they start to grow, re-pot them and bring them into the light. If they have not started to grow after the rest period, repot them with fresh potting soil, bring them into the light and start watering them. Soon you will see the flower stalk appear starting the entire process all over again.

There are a few other tips that will help you be successful with growing amaryllis. They should be planted in a pot that is about 2 inches larger in diameter than the bulb. The pot should have drainage to ensure excess water can leave the pot, keeping the roots healthy. Use a quality, soil-less potting mix avaible in any garden center. Plant the bulb so that the top one-third of the bulb is showing. Properly cared for amaryllis can live up to 75 years!

If you have additional questions about amaryllis or another plant that you received this Holiday season, please give us a call at the University of Illinois Extension at (815) 235-4125. Be sure to check out our website at go.illinois.edu/jsw and on our Blog called Northwest Illinois Horticulture Corner at go.illinois.edu/nilhortcorner for additional resources about plants and home gardening.

Planting Amaryllis Outdoors

Question:

Has anyone planted Amaryllis outdoors? When and how should I plant mine? I’ve heard of them being put outside but don’t know how deep to plant them and if they can be left outside permanently.

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Vicky from Jacksonville, NC

Answer:

Amaryllis is hardy to zone 7b and can be left outdoors year-round as long as it is given adequate mulch in the fall and winter months.

Plant new bulbs in the ground in late September or early October and you’ll see flowers in the spring. Bulbs should be planted about 1 ft. apart and just deep enough so that the tips (“noses”) stick above the ground.

The soil should be nutrient-rich and well drained. The site should receive plenty of sun with some afternoon shade.

Use a low nitrogen fertilizer and make the first fertilizer application as new growth begins, then repeat the application when the flower stalk is 6 to 8 inches tall. Apply a third application immediately after flowering when the spent flower heads and old flower stems have been removed.

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You can plant amaryllis left over from the holidays in the spring. Plant bulbs directly in the ground, pots and all, after first acclimatizing them to the bright outdoor light. Make sure the pots are well drained.

Ellen

Growing amaryllis, a favorite holiday plant

The large, colorful blooms of amaryllis can brighten any room. What is sold as a winter blooming ‘amaryllis’ is actually in the genus Hippeastrum and is native to South and Central America. They are cultivated in South Africa, Israel and the Netherlands and sold as a winter blooming bulb for growing indoors. True amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna) is native to South Africa and is typically grown outdoors in areas that are zone 7 and warmer.

Over the years, single, double and miniature hybrids of Hippeastrum have been developed. The typical range of flower colors include white, red, pink, orange, salmon, pale chartreuse and bicolored, white with brush strokes of pink or red. Depending on the species used to create the hybrids, they may have rounded, pointed or spidery petals. They usually have two 12-20 inch stems producing four showy, trumpet-like flowers. The name amaryllis is commonly used instead of Hippeastrum for these bulbs, and will be used for the remainder of this article.

Amaryllis bulbs are widely available this time of year, sold either as bare root bulbs or as kits that include the bulb, a pot and potting medium. They are best started between October and January. The boxes show huge, brightly colored blooms atop sturdy green stems, but there are a few steps needed to achieve the perfect picture on the package.

Michigan State University Extension recommends keeping bulbs stored in a cool location, about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, before planting. For bare root bulbs, use a soilless potting medium such as a mix of peat and perlite that is well-drained. Be sure the potting medium is moist when you use it or it may end up repelling water. Plant each bulb in a pot that leaves about 1 inch in diameter between the side of the pot and the bulb. For larger bulbs, this is typically a 6- to 7-inch pot.

Fill the pot about half full with potting mix packed down lightly, place the bulb in the pot nose up, and continue filling and firming the potting mix around the bulb until about a third of the bulb is above the potting mix. The final level of the mix should be about 0.5 inches below the rim of the pot to allow for watering. Water lightly with lukewarm water to settle the potting mix around the bulb. To prevent rot, avoid watering over the nose of the bulb. Don’t water again until green growth starts to appear. After that, water about once a week or when the top inch of potting medium is dry.

It can take two to eight weeks for growth to begin and about eight to 12 weeks from the time bulbs are potted to when they begin to flower. Set the pot in a bright, sunny location such as a south-facing window or sunroom with a room temperature of 70-75 F. Plants that receive inadequate light or heat during this growth period may have paler colors and longer leaves. Once plants are in flower, keeping them in a slightly cooler area of about 65 F and out of direct sunlight will help extend the life of the flowers. Turn the pot frequently to keep the flower stalks from leaning toward the light. Stakes may be used to keep flower stalks from flopping over.

Some people discard amaryllis bulbs after they have flowered rather than attempting to keep them over to re-bloom another year, but it can be done. After the last bloom is over, cut the flower stem back a few inches above the bulb, but keep the leaves. Put the plant in a sunny window, preferably south-facing, water when the top inch of potting mix is dry to the touch, and begin fertilizing with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer such as 10-10-10 once a month.

In spring after the danger of frost has passed, put the pot outdoors in a sunny location, water when needed to keep the plant evenly moist and fertilize every two weeks with a balanced fertilizer. In fall after a light frost, bring the pot back indoors, cut the foliage off just above the bulb, and store it dry in a cool (55 F), dark place such as a basement for eight to 10 weeks. The bulb needs the two to three month period of cool temperatures in order to re-bloom. After that, it can be repotted and grown according to the directions given above.

For additional tips on how to regrow amaryllis bulbs, and a gallery of photos of different cultivars, see “How to Make Your Amaryllis Bloom Again” from the United States National Arboretum.

If you want to keep an amaryllis alive after it finishes flowering, gardening columnist Henry Mitchell offers two techniques (one is for people who have gardens and the other for apartment dwellers with no outdoor space).

If you have a garden, the goal is to plant the amaryllis—in its pot—outdoors in late spring. Until then, keep the soil moist (but not too wet—you don’t want to rot the bulb—and offer the amaryllis bright, indirect sunlight. After you “plant” it outdoors, fertilizer it every couple of months until late autumn. Then dig up the pot and bring the plant back indoors, where it will flower again in winter.

In an apartment, “simply keep the plants growing indoors,” Mitchell recommends. Make sure the soil in the bulb’s pot is moist before giving it fertilizer: “The whole idea is to grow the leaves as large and as plentifully as possible during the summer.”

Above: A Waxed Amaryllis Bulb available in five colors including white as shown is $36 at Terrain.

Cheat Sheet

  • If you buy an amaryllis bulb (or someone gives you one as a holiday gift), it will be primed to bloom on its own. All the nutrition and water it needs is stored already in its bulb—no need to put it in water or soil unless you are doing so for aesthetic reasons.
  • Although red, white, and red-and-white-striped flowers are the most common, you can find amaryllis bulbs that bloom in a striking range of colors including white, chartreuse, orange, yellow, and pink.
  • A single bulb will make a theatrical, sculptural display with a cluster of long-lived flowers; give it pride of place on a coffee table or mantel and you really won’t need any other holiday decorations.

Above: For step-by-step instructions to make this holiday floral arrangement, see DIY: A Wild and Foraged Christmas Bouquet. Photograph by Sophia Moreno-Bunge.

Keep It Alive

  • Hippeastrum will grow as a perennial in warm climates (USDA growing zones 8 to 10). Elsewhere, treat it like an annual (see above for instructions if you want to grow an amaryllis bulb in a garden bed).
  • Indoors, cut off the spent blooms after the plant stops flowering but leave 2 inches of stalk until it yellows to help the bulb produce food.
  • Give an amaryllis at least four hours a day of bright, indirect light. Feed it with a general purpose fertilizer (24-8-16) to encourage new growth.

Above: An amaryllis bulb makes a lovely last-minute holiday gift. See more in DIY Gift: Potted Amaryllis Bulb. Photograph by Erin Boyle..

You can fine a large selection of amaryllis bulbs online (seasonally) at shops including White Flower Farm, Terrain, and Gardener’s Supply.

Above: Photograph by Alejandro Bayer Tamayo via Flickr.

See more growing tips at Amaryllis: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design in our curated Garden Design 101 guides to Bulbs & Tubers. Read more about forcing bulbs to flower:

  • DIY: Bottle-Fed Paperwhites
  • Houseplants: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design
  • Flowers in the House, 9 Ways

Growing amaryllis outdoors

As discussed in my previous post, amaryllis make wonderful houseplants – and gift plants – for the holiday season.

What’s not to like about them? They bloom freely indoors; they are affordable; the large, showy flowers make a big, bold statement; and they are available in an ever-increasing variety of colors, shapes, and sizes to fit any taste.

Additionally, they are not difficult to grow and, if the plants are treated correctly, will rebloom year after year.

However, although I pot up some amaryllis in October and November, I prefer to wait till late January or early February to get the majority started.

After all, Christmas already has so much glitz and glamour surrounding it with all the lights and decorations, why not save something special to decorate the house with later in the season.

But there’s another option: Save some bulbs to plant outdoors.

Amaryllis outdoors in the Midwest

Now you might think Midwest gardeners can’t grow amaryllis outdoors – but I say, think again. It’s true they are not hardy outdoors in Northern climes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be treated like dahlias or gladiolas – grown outside during the summer months then lifted come September.

Amaryllis plants outdoors in the landscape are a gorgeous sight!

Matter of fact, my gardening friend, Nancy, who lives on the northern edge of USDA Zone 6, could never get her amaryllis bulbs to rebloom because she couldn’t tolerate the process of encouraging leaf production to help the bulb bulk up for the following year’s flowers. “They’re ugly,” she would say about the leaves.

So, one year, when the excitement of the blossoms was done, out of sheer frustration she simply stuck her bulbs in the ground in a well-protected area near the house, threw down some fertilizer, mulched them well, and told them they were on their own.

The next spring, they sprouted and rebloomed by late summer.

So for her, even though she lives in Zone 6 – and technically, the amaryllis is hardy only in USDA Zones 7b – 10 – if they’re planted in a spot with the right microclimate, a good dose of winter mulch, and good drainage, she has a bevy of these gorgeous plants come back year after year in her garden. (“Zone denial,” as one of my nursery-owner friends calls it.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we all can grow these bulbs in Zone 6 or colder on a year-round basis. Conditions have to be just right.

But we can all enjoy these alluring beauties in the garden – in the ground or in containers – during the summer months, no matter where we live.

Generally, they can be planted in the ground right after Mother’s Day (mid-May), set so that the top of the bulb is just covered with soil. A light frost won’t hurt them, but if you are concerned about the bulbs, just invert a bushel or pot over them for some protection.

Give them some fertilizer and even moisture, and in six to eight weeks, your bulbs should be in full flower.

How to get outdoor amaryllis to rebloom

The trick to ensuring that the bulbs will rebloom the next year is to make certain the bulbs get at least two months’ rest where they go dormant and aren’t watered.

To do that, dig up the bulbs before the first frost in the fall. Bring them indoors and give them a resting period by storing them in a dark location, withholding water and allowing the leaves to dry (just like you would a dahlia tuber or glad bulb).

The bulb can be forced into bloom indoors once again after resting eight weeks, or even sooner, should new growth appear spontaneously.

In two months’ time, you can pot them up and they’ll flower indoors as houseplants – or you can, once again, wait till May and plant them outdoors.

This completes the cycle, which may be repeated annually for many years of ever increasing gorgeous blooms.

Betty Earl, the Intrepid Gardener, blogs regularly at Diggin’ It. She’s the author of “In Search of Great Plants: The Insider’s Guide to the Best Plants in the Midwest.” She also writes a regular column for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine and The Kankakee Journal and numerous articles for Small Gardens Magazine, American Nurseryman, Nature’s Garden, and Midwest Living Magazine, as well as other national magazines. She is a garden scout for Better Homes and Gardens and a regional representative for The Garden Conservancy. To read more by Betty, .

Your Guide to Growing Beautiful Amaryllis

HOW TO GROW

Planting:

Place the bulb in potting mix pointed side up, with its “neck” and “shoulders” above the soil surface. Place in a warm, well-lit spot (such as a south-facing window) until the bulb sprouts. Growth generally begins in two to eight weeks. To enjoy a continuous season of bloom—from the winter holidays until early spring—Ockenga suggests staggering your bulb planting by storing some bulbs in a cool, dry place, such as a basement or garage, and bringing them out of their slumber a few at a time.

Container:

Choose a heavy pot, such as clay or ceramic, to counterbalance the weight of the large flowers. Amaryllis bloom best when they are pot-bound, so the container should only be an inch or two wider than the diameter of the bulb. Once your plant takes off, a support stake may be needed to hold the blooms upright, especially for long-stemmed varieties.

Soil:

Average potting soil works fine, but the addition of perlite or sand will help to improve drainage and prevent soggy soil.

Water:

Give the bulb a good watering at planting time, and then water sparingly until growth starts. Overwatering when you first pot an amaryllis can cause bulb rot and poor root development. After the plant begins to develop foliage, keep the soil slightly moist. Watering once a week should be sufficient, depending on the heat and humidity in your home.

Lighting/temperature:

Since amaryllis are native to the tropics, warmth and sunlight will encourage them to break dormancy. Place newly potted bulbs in a brightly lit room at 65° to 75° F. Once they begin blooming, move them out of direct sunlight and into a cooler location to prolong the blooming period. Turn the pot a little every day to prevent your plant from leaning toward the light source.

Fertilizer:

A healthy amaryllis bulb contains all the nutrients it needs to bloom. But if you plan to keep your plant for reblooming next year, feed it regularly with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.

Growing in water:

It’s also possible to grow an amaryllis in water in a clear glass container, to show off the beauty of the entire bulb. Nestle the roots around a base of pebbles and keep the water level no higher than the base of the bulb, changing it periodically. Be aware that this growing method can deplete the bulb’s reserves, so it may take several years for the plant to bloom again.

Growing outdoors:

In frost-free areas of the South and West (Zones 8-10), amaryllis can be grown outdoors in the garden as perennials. Plant the bulbs in early fall for blooms the following spring. The bulbs can stay in the ground untended, where they will continue to re-flower and multiply for years to come.

Aftercare:

After all the flowers have faded, remove the stalks but leave the foliage intact. It will produce the fuel the bulb needs to flower again next year. With proper care, an amaryllis bulb can last for decades, but it needs a period of rest to replenish its resources. The horticulturists at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offer tips on getting your amaryllis to bloom again.

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